3 000 soldiers, policemen want to quit

BULAWAYO - More than 3 000 disgruntled junior ranking soldiers and police officers have applied to be discharged from service as discontent over poor salaries and working conditions mount in the security forces. Zimbabwe's army is estimated at about 40 000 soldiers while the police force is abou

t 25 000 men and women.

Authoritative sources said most of those wishing to quit the security forces had submitted their letters of resignation between October and November last year indicating that they wished to leave government service between this month and next month. And nearly all of them have served for five years or less.

Although nearly all soldiers and police officers wanting to quit have not categorically stated in their letters that they wish to do so because of poor pay or working conditions, senior commanders however confirmed that this was the main reason young officers wanted to leave, warning that many more were expected to apply to be discharged during the course of the year as economic hardships worsened.

“The boys are tired of living from hand to mouth and many of them say they feel it is better to go into informal trading than continue to be overworked for peanuts,” said a senior officer in the discharges section at national police headquarters in Harare.

“The problem is that these guys in the security forces cannot supplement their incomes while still serving because that will land them into trouble with their commanders, who do not approve of serving police officers or soldiers engaging in informal trading,” added the officer, who requested not to be named.

Defence Minister Sydney Sekeremayi could not be reached for comment on the matter but Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi confirmed officers were pressing to leave the police force.

Mohadi said police authorities would not stand in the way of those who wanted to leave, adding that the exodus of staff from the security forces was not unusual given the massive brain drain across the entire economy as Zimbabweans sought better employment opportunities elsewhere.

He said: “Everybody that feels they can be paid better than where they are employed are free to move to greener pastures. That is not unusual. We have nurses and other skilled personnel (besides police and soldiers) going into the Diaspora. We do not like it but there is not much we can do about that.”

The sources however said the police and army authorities have to date not allowed any of those wishing to leave the security forces to do so. Instead the government was hoping that a more than 200 percent salary hike awarded to all state workers might help dissuade junior officer from quitting the security service.

Junior police officers and soldiers, most of whom are married and have dependents, earn on average between two and three million dollars as take home pay. A 200 percent hike of their salaries would still leave them way below the $17 263 900 that the government’s Central Statistical Office says a family of five people requires per month for basic goods and services.

Some police officers who have applied to be discharged insisted they would still leave the law enforcement agency even if their salaries were increased by 200 percent.

“Two hundred percent of nothing remains nothing. We have families, relatives to feed in this land of hunger and we need to act now,” said a police constable, who is among those who have applied to leave the force.

In the meanwhile, the government is also said to have stepped up recruitment of more police officers to replace those wishing to leave the force.

According to our sources, the police will recruit 6 000 new officers this year compared to the 2 000 that are normally recruited into the force per year.

The police and army forms the bedrock of President Robert Mugabe’s rule and have been used on countless occasions in the past to suppress public protests against the government.

Political analysts say Mugabe has remained in power chiefly because he has been able to retain the loyalty of the army and police and say discontent in the security forces, if unchecked, could seriously undermine the veteran President and his government. – ZimOnline

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